Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

I’ve never been known to be “traditional” and like thinking different. About all aspects of my life. And that includes life with my son.

In our house, we don’t much that can be defined as traditional. Take for instance, today, Thanksgiving. While most of the nation is sitting down to a formal or semi-formal meal with friends and family punctuated with a big brown turkey and surrounded by mashed potatoes, cranberries, stuffing and pumpkin pie:

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You’ll find us with our traditional food: lasagna!

DSCN4175Ever since The Kid was born, it was always my intention to create our own traditions and memories. I love breaking the mold and doing things our own way. Since I replaced ground beef with ground turkey way before The Kid was even born, we have always eaten a lot of turkey. And early in is life as part of a more traditional celebration with my folks while they were still alive, The Kid determined that he didn’t like baked turkey… not even the drumstick. And when I asked him what he would prefer – expecting an answer like ham or something else that we didn’t have often – he came up with lasagna!

Lasagna it was. We’ve done Thanksgiving dinner with lasagna now for at least fifteen years. We look forward to it every year! We make it a big production and we cook it together and usually make one large pan and several smaller ones that go into the freezer.

DSCN4171Here is the big one about to go into the oven!DSCN4172Now that the “big one” is baking, now its on to making some smaller ones. The Kid picks out the sizes he wants – he will most likely eat most of the big one and – if not all, then most of the smaller ones. This makes it easy to let him just take one out of the freezer and pop it into the oven.DSCN4173The two smaller pans also ready to go into the oven. The top one will make a great ‘lazy’ dinner some night when neither of us feel like cooking and I can see The Kid inhaling the smaller one as a snack!

This non-traditional thinking extends to other aspects of our lives as well. For instance, we don’t really celebrate Christmas. It isn’t that we’re anti-Christmas or anything, it really is the belief that every day is special and we believe that we should live each day as though it were as special as Christmas. Consequently, we don’t have a Christmas tree or decorate like most folks, and this suits us just fine. I regularly shower him with gifts and treats that I believes that he deserves and has earned, rather than because it is Christmas.

The thing I want people to understand is that we believe and support the underlying message of Christmas, it is just our decision not to base it on a calendar but to express it all during the year. We do join in with charities and other giving programs; we just don’t expect it for ourselves.

And we love our non-traditional selves! The one drawback as I see it, is that things become very crafty around this season and because this is a craft and creative blog, most people will expect to see that reflected here.

I will be that one blog that does it differently. I hope you enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

julie

Gotta Love It When Your Kid Makes You Breakfast

I don’t know if I ever mentioned in this blog, but my gorgeous, handsome, smart and charming son is the result of five years of infertility treatments, prayers and lots and lots of tears. But into my life came the most wonderful bundle of joy. He has been, without a doubt, the best kid any mom could ask for.

He is an easy kid to cook for, as well. He loves everything I cook. But every once in a while he will run across a recipe that he wants to try, and without fail, he knows it is something that I will like as well.

His latest discovery was something he found on Imgur. I don’t spend much time up there myself, although I do have an account, doing my crafts and projects as well as writing this blog take up a lot of my time! So, he brought this idea to me and asked if he could try it.

Here is the original Imgur post.

I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough! He was even thoughtful enough to determine that we didn’t have all the necessary ingredients, he even went to the store and bought them! On his own dime! (He doesn’t generally spend his hard earned cash on groceries!)

So, here are the results:

Bacon & Eggs BeforeDoesn’t that look like heaven? It is!

Essentially, you take a round of bread (just use a slice of bread and using a glass or jar, press into the bread making a round) and place in the bottom of each opening in a muffin tin. Then curl cooked bacon around the edge of each. Sprinkle cheese into the opening and then drop an egg into the cup. Season. Bake in a 400° oven for 18 minutes.

A couple of hints: using cooking spray in each opening before placing the bread round. Don’t completely cook the bacon or it won’t be pliable to bend around the tin’s curve. Use cheese of your choice, the original recipe used cheddar or jack, but we like monterrey cheese.

I considered using hash browns instead of bread, or maybe even biscuit dough (you know those tubes from Pillsbury). Even a slice of potato. Or instead of bacon, you could use a sausage patty.  Or even adding already scrambled eggs instead of the uncooked egg (although I think you’d want to bake it less time). There are probably a hundred ways you could make this your own.

But the best thing is to get your own kid to make it for you and serve it up with a smile!

Bacon & Eggs

julie

 

 

 

 

Busy, Busy, Busy… Can It Get Anymore Busy?

Wow… things have been going like gangbusters around here, so much so that I haven’t even had a chance to write! The bulk of my current projects are finished or this close to being finished. So, now I will try to catch it all up.

In between projects, I have taken little bits of time to do some baking. This is where the whole growing up in a large family hits home every time. You see I grew up cooking and baking in a household that usually encompassed between seven to twelve people (and sometimes guests and friends), I learned to cook in large quantities. And it was more like cooking by sight… so you looked at a certain number of, say potatoes, and thought, ‘yes this is enough for eight’ but then you threw in some more. Just in case. And I am telling you that there was never leftovers!

Unfortunately, I never figured out a way to undo that kind of thinking. And that goes for baking as well. My mother would bake a chocolate cake and before it cooled enough to frost, it would be two thirds eaten! Always make more than “enough”.

So, baking for me was like that. One of the things I still do that I learned growing up was to save the ends of a loaf of bread for bread pudding. You know, the crusts that no one wants to eat. Well, I still do that as a loaf of bread in my house today can last a long time. So, when it has been around a while and no one is eating it, I will throw it in the freezer. For bread pudding. This can include bagels and raisin bread and regular ole white bread. So, I had quite a bit filling my tiny, inconvenient freezer, so I made bread pudding.

DSCN3469You have to start with bread crumbs. So I pulled it all out, sliced and diced and toasted it all in the oven. A double batch of bread pudding (see? it is already starting) requires 4 cups of bread crumbs, but I usually throw another half to full extra cup to make sure it comes out okay… ie not too mushy.

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So, of course I prepared more than I could use in a single instance of baking. Are you starting to get the whole “way too much” theme?

DSCN3471So, three extra bags of 4+ cups of bread crumbs were readied for the next baking session. Thank heavens for ziploc bags!

DSCN3472And here is the end result. I have a copy of Better Homes and Gardens red and white cookbook from 1948 that I still use for my baking recipes. Nothing healthy here, these are recipes with lard and butter and lots of sugar! Eaten warm, this is like french toast on steroids!

At the same time, I also had bananas in the freezer. My mom could really bake, and her pièce de ré·sis·tance was her banana bread. She was famous for it. Well, at least in our town she was famous. She had people who would bring her ripe bananas and ask her to make her banana bread. Some of us kids bandied about the idea of going public with it… you know, “Ma Benson’s Famous Banana Bread”… in the same vein as Mrs. Field’s Cookies or Otis Spunkmeyer’s Cookies. Alas, it was not to be.

But having at least enough very ripe bananas on hand for two loaves, out came the bread pans and my wonderful, how-did-I-ever-live-without Kitchenaid mixer. While it was mixing bananas, the pudding was baking. Then the banana bread went it.

Have you ever had warm, out of the oven, homemade banana bread with butter? Just this side of heaven!

DSCN3473I set the loaves to cool and grab my camera but when I returned, someone had already sliced and eaten two very large pieces! I am telling you, this is almost too good to be legal! 🙂

So, that was one day… all the while working on other projects as well. I just have to get it all written!
julie

Change-Up In The Line-Up

Even though we don’t “do” Christmas in my house, there is definitely a different feel. We sort of slacked off the last couple of days in the garage, finishing up the numerous projects and spent more time just being together.

One family tradition that I still do, is our famous homemade bean soup. We have ham one day and then we munch on what’s left, in the meantime, the bone is thrown into a big soup pan and we bring it to a boil and then it simmers for hours over the next couple of days. Navy beans are soaked and then added to the mixture, and then more cooking. Finally, potatoes are peeled and cut up and added, then more cooking. We bring it to a boil and then its moved to the back burner and it simmers pretty much all day.

DSCN2979We feast on this for days… today it was breakfast, lunch AND dinner! When the level drops down too much, we add more beans and more potatoes – this time we actually added more ham. When I was growing up, this was a staple in my house. This fed us much more than you could imagine, potatoes and beans were cheap and could make things stretch a helluva long way.

I also indulged in a little baking. If we aren’t the slaves to our habits, I don’t know what. Growing up, we always kept the ends of breads and day old buns, kept in plastic bags in the back of the freezer. There were always ways to use these pieces, even if it came down to thawing and eating as is!

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Well, I still do this. Bread ends, hamburger and hotdog buns that didn’t get eaten, croissants and bagels that went uneaten. Well, I pulled them all out and sliced and diced them into small bread cubes and lay them out on baking sheets and getting them all toasted.

Then I pulled out my favorite cookbook. I think that this is the first cookbook I bought once I turned eighteen. And I’ve used it often. I mean, just check out this well worn book.DSCN2982Inside and out…

 

DSCN2983For me, this is the only cookbook for me. Including the ever popular bread pudding. The mere fact that when I was done prepping the bread cubes I had enough for 5 double-batches should tell me something, but I simply bagged up what I wasn’t going to use and pre-packaged them for ease for the next baking session(s).

It turned out really, really good. One of my best, I think. In fact, before I could even get photos for the blog, other members of the household had helped themselves to almost half of it! Good thing I made two pans, so I might be able to have some myself!

So, with that, I am snuggling onto the couch with The Kid and binge watching “Roseanne”. Hope everyone has the best holiday and celebrating in whatever way that makes you happy.

julie

Tiered Baking Plates… They Present Cupcakes!

Woke up this morning not feeling the best. You know how that goes. I am thinking that nothing is going to get done today, except making my way through the third (or is it fourth?) season of “Mad Men”. But I thought I would get at least one more post out of activities completed so far.

Yesterday was a bake-fest. The Kid was essential, he is going to make someone very happy in the kitchen. We made two and a half dozen cupcakes, a double batch of bread pudding (mmm my favorite) and baked cornbread muffins. I figured while the kitchen was a mess and the oven was hot, we might as well take advantage of it. The cupcakes were done specifically to show off something that I’ve been working on. Hopefully it will be successful.

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I’ve been collecting these clear plates and short candle holders from thrift stores and making these cupcake tiered plates. I love the elegant way it makes the cakes look and especially the four tiers.

Here are some more shots of the different tiered plates:

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It is what is wonderful about making these, the different styles and weights and diameters of the plates and the candle holders.

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I have endeavored to avoid holiday themed plates (like Christmas and Easter)  but there are so many styles to choose from.

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And the wonderful thing is that they can be as large – or small – as you may want. They can be two, three, four – even five – tiers and the taller they are, the more elegant they become.

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As you can see, the patterns couldn’t be more different. The largest plates, I have found, are the heaviest and therefore make a great base or anchor.

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The candlesticks are also different styles and heights. They all work well with the plates and they provide enough height between the plates to allow for cupcakes, pieces of cake or other candies or even sandwiches.

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I’ve done these with my own china pattern as well as collected a set much like the ones above. Sometimes I wished I did more entertaining, just so that I could use this!

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So, you’ve seen three and four tiered, aren’t they just fabulous? Oh, and while I do my thrift shipping I am always on the look out for certain things: clear platters and plates, candlesticks, any and all kitchen things in red; utensils that would work for chimes, sheets that work well for drop cloths, picture frames, decorative jars and cut glass, someone else’s craft materials (always a good deal) and the unusual items that would work well for other projects.

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Like these two square plates I just managed to see… I don’t know if they were once part of a larger set or someone else had found them and put them together. And just a few inches away sat a little while candlestick that screamed it wanted to be paired with the plates.

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Another quick snapshot with cupcakes this time.

photo

For example, I found this large jar that just called my name… I don’t have a use for it just now, but it was so cool and priced right. I have a similar jar, not quite so angular, that holds the matches that were collected for years – especially when we were smokers and did a lot of traveling. It used to sit on one end of the  fireplace and I always wanted a second one to balance it out, although the fireplace has different items now. What to put in it is still a question (if you have suggestions, lay it on me!).

Well, still have plenty of work to do and we have our neighborhood garage sale next weekend, which means I will be doing plenty of organizing and cleaning while figuring out what to sell. A fantastic opportunity to get rid of some things, maybe sell some of my finished projects and, of course, some American Girl accessories that I’ve made. I’m planning on setting the dollhouse out, just to see if I get any offers or interest. I would SO love to get this behemoth out of my entryway.

julie

Embroidery, Baking and Painting. Its a Trifecta of Crafting!

It has been a rough week for me, so this will be a quick post. In honor of my Mother who passed away this past week, I finished some hanger covers that I had stamped and marked and my Mom had embroidered for me. She had been a big embroiderer when I was young and she did teach me how at that time. I did a few pieces when I was young, not sure any had really survived. I’ve occasionally picked up a piece from time to time, but never have been accomplished at it. Mostly just did accents on pieces. I bought a lovely sewing machine from Singer that now does it automatically and I could never compete – time or accuracy – with its results.

My Mom had finished the pieces in the previous months, and all that was needed to complete it was to sew the seams and trim the pillow cases. And here are the finished results:

Hanger Cover1 Hanger Cover2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think they turned out quite charming. I think that I will hang one on the front of my closet door in my bathroom and the other will hang in the quest room.

Another thing I did differently was to do some baking this week. Nothing like rich, gooey, calorie laden baked goods to make the family feel better and bond me with my son. And he loved this! And it was so simple to do, I don’t know why I hadn’t done it sooner or do it more often. It is called Monkeybread and this recipe was made using Pillsbury refrigerated dough for buttermilk biscuits.

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Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 11.01.38 PMThis was so unbelievably good, especially warm! It was gone before the day’s end. And so simple to make… you should try it!

Last but not least, this simple transformation of a beautiful little piece. It was very beautiful, but the top’s veneer was seriously damaged. I spent a few hours and a hammer and a pry tool and managed to remove it all without damaging the base piece. This allowed me to then prime the entire piece and generously applied six coats of my favorite black paint to the top. the remainder of the cabinet was the recipient of this beautiful dark purple that leans toward red when wet, but blue when dry so it just looks so extraordinary with the black that has undertones of blue as well.

I cleaned and then spray painted the hardware that was original to the piece, they were quite stunning in their own right. Not often do I re-use the original hardware, usually it is those ubiquitous Chippendale style handles that I have come to really dislike quite intensely. But with a couple of carefully applied coats of metallic black, these handles just turned out fabulously.

Here is a quick before and after photo:

Purple Before&After

Much to do this week and I have the luxury of having the Kid home with me on Spring Break. So far, “spring” has been cold, cloudy and a bit precipitous. The Kid has voiced his desire to transform a dresser from start to finish… I am excited and trying to convince myself that he wants to learn the process but I know he is doing it so that he can take a bigger cut of the profit! Either way, I get his company and help and that is worth it all!

Thank you for dropping by. And keep up the crafting!

julie

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